Epsom Downs Racecourse

Last updated

Epsom Downs
Epsom Downs finish line.jpg
Location Epsom, Surrey, UK
Operated by Jockey Club Racecourses
Screened on Racing TV
Course type Flat
Notable races Epsom Derby
Epsom Oaks
Coronation Cup
Official website

Epsom Downs is a Grade 1 racecourse on the hills associated with Epsom in Surrey, England which is used for thoroughbred horse racing. The "Downs" referred to in the name are part of the North Downs.


The course, which has a crowd capacity of 130,000 when taking into account people watching from the Epsom Downs, an area freely available to the public, [1] is best known for hosting the Derby Stakes which has come to be widely referred to as The Derby (note, 'Epsom' is not part of the title of the race), the United Kingdom's premier thoroughbred horse race for three-year-old colts and fillies, over a mile and a half (2400 m). It also hosts the Oaks Stakes (also widely referred to as The Oaks) for three-year-old fillies, and the Coronation Cup for horses aged four years and upwards. All three races are Group 1 races and run over the same course and distance.

The Chairman of the course since 2015 is Julia Budd. [2] The course, owned by the Jockey Club, has enjoyed a long association with the British Royal Family, with the Queen attending most years for the Derby.


The first recorded race was held on the Downs in 1661, [3] although a local burial list of 1625 refers to "William Stanley who in running the race fell from his horse and brake his neck" and in some sources racing is recorded as dating from the 1640s, [4] so it is likely that racing was established much earlier than that. [5] Epsom is referenced in the diary of Samuel Pepys in 1663 and Charles II is said to have been a racegoer there. [5] By 1684, Epsom had a clerk of the course and from 1730 was hosting twice yearly race meetings. [5]

At Epsom on 3 May 1769 the famous racehorse Eclipse had the first of his many victories in an undefeated career on the turf.

In the summer of 1779 Edward Smith-Stanley, 12th Earl of Derby, organised a race for himself and his friends to race their three-year-old fillies. He named it the Oaks after his nearby estate. The race became so successful that in the following year 1780 a new race was added for three-year-old colts and fillies—-the Derby. In 1784 the course was extended to its current distance of a mile and a half and Tattenham Corner was introduced. [6]

Henry Dorling, step-father to cookery writer Mrs Beeton, was a Clerk of the Course at Epsom, appointed in 1840. [7]

In 1913 the suffragette Emily Davison threw herself in front of King George V's horse Anmer, bringing him down. Davison was badly injured and died four days later. [8]

In 1952 the racecourse was featured extensively in the film Derby Day set around the 1952 Epsom Derby. [9]

In 2009 the racecourse opened the new Duchess's Stand. It has a capacity of 11,000 and has a 960 m² (10 000 sq ft) hall. It can be used for banqueting, conferences and exhibitions. The estimated cost of the new stand, which was built by Willmott Dixon, was £23.5 million. [10]

On 4 June 2011, in their first public outing since returning from their Seychelles honeymoon, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (along with the Queen, William's brother, Prince Harry, and Catherine's parents, Michael and Carole Middleton) attended the 2011 Epsom Derby at the track. [11]


Tattenham Corner in 1872, by Gustave Dore. Bpt6k10470488 f165.jpg
Tattenham Corner in 1872, by Gustave Doré.

The racecourse is between Epsom, Tadworth and Langley Vale. As it is in a public area, people can watch the Derby free, and this meant that the Derby used to be the most attended sporting event of the year. It presents a stern challenge for inexperienced horses and a true test of stamina for those that might previously have contested the 2,000 Guineas Stakes over a mile (1600 m). Unusually, the racecourse is not a circuit but is roughly "U"-shaped with chutes for the start of sprint races over five, six and seven furlongs. The Derby course features an ascent to the top of the hill followed by a wide, sweeping left turn (Tattenham Corner) as the horses descend towards the straight. The half-mile straight is mainly downhill, with a final sharp ascent in the last hundred yards. The predominantly downhill nature of the straight means that times for the sprint races tend to be much faster than those on flatter tracks. [12] Clockings for the five-furlong course have included 53.6 s (hand-timed) by Indigenous in 1960 and 53.70 s (electrically-timed) by Spark Chief in 1983. [13]

Epsom Downs houses the third largest racehorse training facility in the country. The facility is managed by the Epsom trainers society. There are 11 trainers who use the facility, including Simon Dow and Laura Mongan (the only female trainer at Epsom).

The area is served by the Epsom Downs railway line as well as Tattenham Corner railway station, which is where the Queen alights from the British Royal Train on race days.

Notable races

MonthMeetingDOWRace NameTypeGradeDistanceAge/Sex
AprilApril MeetingWednesday City and Suburban Handicap FlatHandicap1m 2f 17y4yo +
AprilApril MeetingWednesday Great Metropolitan Handicap FlatHandicap1m 4f 6y4yo +
AprilApril MeetingWednesday Blue Riband Trial Stakes FlatConditions1m 2f 17y3yo only
JuneDerbyFriday Woodcote Stakes FlatConditions6f 3y2yo only
JuneDerbyFriday The Oaks FlatGroup 11m 4f 6y3yo only f
JuneDerbyFriday Coronation Cup FlatGroup 11m 4f 6y4yo +
JuneDerbyFriday Surrey Stakes FlatListed7f 3y3yo
JuneDerbySaturday Princess Elizabeth Stakes FlatGroup 31m 113y3yo + f
JuneDerbySaturday Diomed Stakes FlatGroup 31m 113y3yo +
JuneDerbySaturday The Derby FlatGroup 11m 4f 6y3yo c + f
Other races

Related Research Articles

Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing 3-race horse honor in various countries

The Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, often shortened to Triple Crown, comprises three races for three-year-old Thoroughbred horses. Winning all three of these Thoroughbred horse races is considered the greatest accomplishment in Thoroughbred racing. The term originated in mid-19th-century England and nations where Thoroughbred racing is popular, each have their own Triple Crown series.

Epsom Derby Flat horse race in Britain

The Derby Stakes, popularly known as the Derby, and as the Investec Derby for sponsorship reasons, is a Group 1 flat horse race in England open to three-year-old colts and fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey over a distance of one mile, four furlongs and 6 yards, usually on the first Saturday of June each year. It was first run in 1780.

Epsom Oaks British Group 1 horse race tor 3-year-old filles over 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards (2,420 metres)

The Oaks Stakes is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain open to three-year-old fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 6 yards, and it is scheduled to take place each year in late May or early June. It is the second-oldest of the five Classic races, after the St Leger. Officially the Investec Oaks, it is also popularly known as simply The Oaks.

Ouija Board (horse) British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Ouija Board is a British Thoroughbred racehorse owned by Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby and trained by Ed Dunlop and Chris Hinson. In a career spanning four seasons, she won 10 of her 22 races, 7 of them Group 1s, including The Oaks in 2004 and the Hong Kong Vase in 2005. In 2004, she won the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and came 2nd to Intercontinental the following year in the same race. In 2006, the Dunlop team took her back to the US, where she regained her crown in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Ouija Board has amassed over £3 million in prize money. Also, she is only the second horse ever to win Breeders' Cup races in non-consecutive years, along with Da Hoss, who won the Breeders' Cup Mile in 1996 and 1998.

Authorized (horse) Irish-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Authorized is an Irish-bred and British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse, winner of the 2007 Epsom Derby.

Time Charter Thoroughbred racehorse

Time Charter was an Irish-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won several major middle-distance races between 1982 and 1984. After winning twice as a two-year-old in 1981, she developed into a classic filly in the following year, finishing second in the 1000 Guineas before winning The Oaks in record time. Later that year she won the Sun Chariot Stakes before beating a field of colts and older horses by seven lengths in the Champion Stakes. As a four-year-old she won England's premier weight-for-age race, the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and successfully conceded seven pounds to the outstanding French filly All Along in the Prix Foy. In 1984 she recorded an impressive four length victory in the Coronation Cup and was retired from racing at the end of the year having won nine of her twenty races. She later became a very successful broodmare.

Cantelo was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare. In a career which lasted from spring 1958 until September 1959 she ran eleven times and won eight races. Cantelo was unbeaten in five races as a two-year-old including the Royal Lodge Stakes, in which she defeated colts. As a three-year-old in 1959 she won the Classic St Leger, as well as the Cheshire Oaks and the Ribblesdale Stakes. Her defeats came when finishing second in The Oaks and the Park Hill Stakes and running fourth to Alcide in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes. She was retired from racing after her St Leger win and had some success as a broodmare.

Shadayid was an American-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare. In a racing career which lasted from June 1990 to November 1991 she ran eleven times winning five races and being placed five times. Shadayid was one of the leading two-year-old fillies in Europe in 1990, winning all three of her races including the Group One Prix Marcel Boussac at the Longchamp. After winning the Fred Darling Stakes on her three-year-old debut, Shadayid took her unbeaten run to five by winning the Classic 1000 Guineas at Newmarket. Although she never won again, she finished second in the Coronation Stakes and the Sussex Stakes and third in the Haydock Sprint Cup and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. Shadayid was retired from racing to become a broodmare at the end of her three-year-old season after finishing seventh in the Breeders' Cup Mile.

Sun Stream was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare, best known for winning two Classics in 1945. The filly won five times from seven races in a track career which lasted from spring 1944 until June 1945. As a two-year-old in 1944 she won three races including the Queen Mary Stakes. After being beaten on her three-year-old debut she won the 1000 Guineas over one mile at Newmarket and a substitute Oaks over one and a half miles at the same course a month later. After her second classic win she was retired to stud, where her record as a broodmare was disappointing.

Galata (horse) British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Galata (1829–1848) was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won two British Classic Races in 1831 and the Ascot Gold Cup a year later. In a racing career which lasted from April 1832 until June 1834 the filly ran ten times and won seven races. As a three-year-old in 1832 she won her first four races including the 1000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse and the Oaks Stakes at Epsom Downs Racecourse. In the following year she was unbeaten in two races, winning the Port Stakes at Newmarket and the Gold Cup at Ascot. She was retired to stud after two unsuccessful starts in 1834.

Sorcery was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare who won the classic Oaks Stakes at Epsom Downs Racecourse in 1811. In a racing career which lasted from April 1811 to July 1814 the filly ran twenty-six times, winning twelve races and finishing placed on eleven occasions. Sorcery won the Oaks on her third racecourse appearance and went on to win other important races including the Epsom Gold Cup, the Trial Stakes, two editions of the Oatlands Stakes, a King's Plate and several match races. After her retirement from racing she became a successful broodmare, being the dam of the 1828 Epsom Derby winner Cadland.

The 2013 Epsom Derby was the 234th annual running of the Derby horse race. It took place at Epsom Downs Racecourse on 1 June 2013.

In the Groove (horse) British Thoroughbred racehorse

In the Groove was a British Thoroughbred racehorse. In a racing career which lasted from June 1989 until November 1991 she ran in twenty-one races and won seven times, including four at Group One level. After winning once from four starts at two, she developed into a top-class filly at three, winning the Musidora Stakes and the Irish 1000 Guineas against her own age and sex before defeating colts and older horses in the International Stakes and the Champion Stakes. As a four-year-old she won the Sandown Mile and Coronation Cup.

Diminuendo (horse) American-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Diminuendo was an American-bred, British-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare best known for winning the classic Epsom Oaks in 1988. She was one of the best two-year-old fillies of 1987, when she won all four of her races including the Cherry Hinton Stakes and Fillies' Mile. In 1988 she was beaten in her first two races, but won her next four, taking the Musidora Stakes, Epsom Oaks, Irish Oaks and Yorkshire Oaks. She finished second when favourite for the St. Leger Stakes and ended her racing career by finishing unplaced in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, but was rated the best three-year-old filly of the season in Europe. She was then retired to stud, where she had some success as a broodmare.

Bireme (horse) British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Bireme was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare best known for winning the classic Epsom Oaks in 1980. After winning one of her two starts in 1979, she won the Musidora Stakes on her three-year-old debut before winning the Oaks in record time. Later that summer she broke loose during a training session and sustained career-ending injuries. She was retired to stud with a record of three wins in four races and has had some influence as a broodmare.

The Great Metropolitan Handicap is a flat handicap horse race in Great Britain open to horses aged four years or older. It is run over a distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs and 6 yards at Epsom in April during the Epsom Spring meeting. Inaugurated in 1846 it originally attracted top-class racehorses in the 19th and early 20th century, but today its importance has been eclipsed by larger stakes races with more valuable purses.

Minding (horse) Irish Thoroughbred racehorse

Minding is an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. She was among the leading two-year-old fillies of her generation in Europe in 2015 when she won three of her five races including the Moyglare Stud Stakes in Ireland and the Fillies' Mile in England. On her first appearance of 2016 the filly posted a decisive victory in the classic 1000 Guineas but was subsequently beaten when favourite for the Irish 1,000 Guineas. She went on to win a second classic in The Oaks in June, the first filly to complete the Guineas-Oaks double since Kazzia in 2002. She went on to take her fifth and sixth Group One races with wins in the Pretty Polly Stakes and the Nassau Stakes. She then defeated male opposition to take the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes. At the end of the year she was named Cartier Horse of the Year and the world's best three-year-old filly. She won on her reappearance in 2017 but subsequently suffered an injury which led to her retirement later that year without racing again.

Together Forever (horse) Thoroughbred racehorse

Together Forever is an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. After being beaten in her first three races she showed significant progress in the autumn of her two-year-old season winning three races of increasing prestige. She followed up a win in a maiden race with a victory in the Listed Staffordstown Stud Stakes before ending her season by taking the Group One Fillies' Mile. She failed to win as a three-year-old but finished second in the Musidora Stakes and fourth in the Irish Oaks.

Our Lassie British-bred Thoroughbred racehorse

Our Lassie was a British Thoroughbred racehorse and broodmare. She was a very good performer as a juvenile in 1902 when she won the Sandown Produce Stakes and was placed in her other three starts. In the following year she failed in the Lincoln Handicap but the recorded a decisive win in the Oaks Stakes. She failed to win or place in four subsequent races and was retired from racing at the end of 1904. As a broodmare she produced a few winners but had her biggest impact on the future of Thoroughbred racing through her unraced daughter Lady Brilliant.

Love (horse) Irish Thoroughbred racehorse

Love is an Irish Thoroughbred racehorse. She showed top-class form as a juvenile in 2019 when she won three of her seven races including the Silver Flash Stakes and the Moyglare Stud Stakes as well as running third in the Fillies' Mile. On her first appearance as a three-year-old she won the 1000 Guineas, following up with a facile victory in the Oaks Stakes and a similar win in the Yorkshire Oaks.


  1. Osborne, Alistair (1 June 2012). "Derby draws record crowds as racecourses buck recession". Archived from the original on 15 April 2018. Retrieved 5 April 2018 via www.telegraph.co.uk.
  2. "Julia Budd to succeed Anthony Cane as Chairman of Epsom Downs". The Jockey Club. 21 December 2015. Archived from the original on 8 June 2019. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  3. "History". Epsom Downs Racecourse. Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2014.
  4. Barrett, Norman, ed. (1995). The Daily Telegraph Chronicle of Horse Racing. Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Publishing. p. 8.
  5. 1 2 3 Holland 1991, p. 10.
  6. "Epsom Downs History". Archived from the original on 25 June 2014. Retrieved 11 March 2012.
  7. Beetham, Margaret (2004). "Beeton, Isabella Mary (1836–1865)" (available online through UK public libraries, also in printed form). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37172. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 April 2008.
  8. Emily Davison (1872 - 1913) Archived 12 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine BBC History
  9. Vincent Porter, 'The Robert Clark Account', Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, Vol 20 No 4, 2000
  10. 'Freak' winds blamed for ripped roof at Epsom Downs racecourse Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine The Guardian, 10 January 2012
  11. "Queen's hope to win Derby goes on". BBC News. 4 June 2011. Archived from the original on 23 June 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2018.
  12. "Epsom Downs Course Guide - At The Races". At The Races. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  13. John Randall (24 December 2005). "Ask the anorak: Raffingora record just one facet of a high-class sprinter". www.thefreelibrary.com. Racing Post. Archived from the original on 26 February 2018. Retrieved 26 February 2018.


Coordinates: 51°18′35″N0°15′20″W / 51.30972°N 0.25556°W / 51.30972; -0.25556